In a ranking of cool space phenomenon, radio jets have to take a spot near the top. They’re near-light-speed blasts of material from black holes or neutron stars, which are known as “stellar corpses” because they are the remnants of stars left after they’ve gone supernova, and they’re downright spectacular.
Scientists thought the only neutron stars that could expel radio jets were those with very weak magnetic fields. But a new discovery has punched a big hole in that understanding.
They just figured out that a jet-spewing neutron star called Swift J0243.6+6124 has got a really, really strong magnetic field, according to a paper published Wednesday in Nature.
The University of Amsterdam-led research team discovered the phenomenon using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope and NASA’s Swift space telescope.
“The magnetic field of the neutron star we studied is about 10 trillion times stronger than that of our own Sun, so for the first time ever, we have observed a jet coming from a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field,” lead researchers Jakob van den Eijnden said in a press release. “The discovery reveals a whole new class of jet-producing sources for us to study.”
As co-author James Miller-Jones added, radio jets play a major role in the transfer of gravitational energy from black holes and neutron stars back into the surrounding environment, so anything that expands our understanding of the phenomenon subsequently improves our understanding of the universe as a whole.
And now, thanks to this study, we can start hunting down radio jets in places we never thought to look.
READ MORE: Neutron Star Jets Shoot Down Theory [EurekAlert]
More on radio jets: Researchers Discover “Bizarre” Black Holes That Are All Aligned